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What is the European Super League, and why are soccer fans so upset about it?

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By Callum Keown

The proposed European Super League has shaken the foundations of European football and sparked almost universal outrage among fans, former players and politicians.

The league has been condemned by many within the soccer world, but also by the likes of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

What is it and what does it all mean?

The breakaway competition is being formed by an elite group of 12 soccer clubs: AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus /zigman2/quotes/200971889/delayed IT:JUVE +1.67% , Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham. Three more clubs are expected to join as founding members.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United /zigman2/quotes/205140601/composite MANU -0.62% have U.S. owners: Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke; Fenway Sports Group; and the Glazer family. Joel Glazer and Kroenke are vice chairmen of the new league, along with Fenway Sports Group’s John Henry, serving under Florentino Pérez of Real Madrid, named as the organization’s first chairman.

U.S. investment bank JPMorgan /zigman2/quotes/205971034/composite JPM -1.66% is reportedly funding the new league, committing an initial €3.5 billion ($4.2 billion) investment. 

The league is designed to be a midweek competition, comprising 20 clubs — 15 founding clubs and a further five entering the field each season through qualification. It would rival the current Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, the continent’s premier club competition and one of the world’s most lucrative sporting events.

The 15 founding members would compete year in and year out in the Super League and could never be relegated, taking away an element of competition and qualification. Teams currently qualify for the Champions League according to season standings in their own domestic leagues.

Why?

Europe’s elite clubs have been pushing for changes to the Champions League in recent years. Essentially, they want more matches against each other and a bigger slice of the pie. At the moment, UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, decides how to distribute revenue generated from its competitions.

UEFA has made reforms in the hope it would stop the formation of a breakaway league — the changes were announced on Monday.

But the changes were clearly not enough, and the so-called Dirty Dozen announced the breakaway league just hours before UEFA’s announcement.

The Super League said the new tournament would provide “significantly greater economic growth” and support for European soccer. Clubs will receive solidarity payments in line with the competition’s revenue, which are expected to be in excess of €10 billion and substantially higher than from existing competitions. 

The founding clubs would receive a combined €3.5 billion to support “infrastructure investment plans” and to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league would also be free to strike new broadcasting deals, again choosing how to distribute the revenue. In theory it could explore deals with streaming giants such as Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +1.05% , Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -1.43% and Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.72% .

The fallout

The backlash has been fiery to say the least, with many criticizing as greedy the clubs involved and claiming the new, largely closed league would ruin domestic leagues and the integrity of the sport. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anyone — outside of the 12 clubs’ owners — who is positive about it.

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